LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS, Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s deputies, the director of the Sagadahoc County Emergency Management Agency and a Maine warden gather in Bowdoin in September 2014 to strategize for the search of an elderly man with Alzheimer’s who wandered away from home. Fortunately crews found him safe as they did on Christmas Eve of 2015 when he again wandered away from home. The Sagadahoc County Communication Center on Wednesday announced implementation of its “Wandering Person Program,” which aims to more safely and efficiently locate vulnerable members of the community.

LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS, Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s deputies, the director of the Sagadahoc County Emergency Management Agency and a Maine warden gather in Bowdoin in September 2014 to strategize for the search of an elderly man with Alzheimer’s who wandered away from home. Fortunately crews found him safe as they did on Christmas Eve of 2015 when he again wandered away from home. The Sagadahoc County Communication Center on Wednesday announced implementation of its “Wandering Person Program,” which aims to more safely and efficiently locate vulnerable members of the community.

BATH

It’s free, it’s confidential and gets vital information to public safety personnel with the stroke of a keyboard when they’re searching for your loved one.

The Sagadahoc County Communication Center on Wednesday announced implementation of its new “Wandering Person Program,” which aims to more safely and efficiently locate vulnerable members of the community when they are reported missing. It aligns with the center’s motto: “Always There, Always Ready.”

The Wandering Person Program is designed to assist first responders by enabling the rapid deployment of personal information for individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia or others that may be prone to wander. Timely and secure access to this information, including a detailed description and photo, potential triggers as well as calming techniques, cannot only save first responders valuable time when trying to locate and return a wanderer to their home, but also aid in ensuring the safety of the individual as well as the personnel involved in the search.

For example, Deputy Director Jason Shedlock said, some people don’t like to be called by their given name and prefer a nickname. Family members and guardians can also provide information about the triggers that can make their loved ones more upset and help them understand how to calm them in the event they are approached during a search to keep all involved safe.

An online form starts the process which asks for a recent photo and basic information including about health issues, any emergency contacts, a case worker and, of course, a physical description. A dispatcher will call to gather further information to enter directly into the county’s 911 database.

Their ability to pool information very quickly in emergency situations is critical.

“Obviously, we’ll take as much or as little information as parent or caregiver wants to provide,” Shedlock.

“Anytime first responders can have access to more information, it’s a good thing — and that’s especially true when it comes to missing or lost persons,” said Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry. “The Wandering Person Program will be a powerful tool that will not only help us do our job, but also help our deputies and others involved understand and react appropriately to a particular individual’s specialized needs.”

Brodie Hinckley, director of the Sagadahoc County Emergency Communications Center, said the program allows parents and guardians the opportunity to provide information about their wandering prone loved one in a calm setting so they don’t have to when they are upset and scared because their loved one is missing. Law enforcement will already have that information at their finger tips.

“Most important is they’ll have a picture of the person, so if they’re driving to a scene they may see the person,” Hinckley said.

Even before implementation of the Wandering Person Program, the county’s communication team experienced the potential of such a program. A Bowdoinham resident who was known to wander, was safely located shortly after he was reported missing because the information that first responders needed was already in the 911 database from a previous incident.

The program will also work hand in hand with the county’s existing Code Red system which allows it to call landline phones in a targeted area as well as cellphone clients who sign up for the service, to notify the public of emergency situations including missing people. In March of 2013, a child with autism in Phippsburg was found within minutes using this technology when a resident who had received a call from Code Red and called police after spotting the child on their front steps.

“It just speeds up the process,” when adding the Wandering Person Program, Hinckley said. “If we want to put out the Code Red on a person,” the information is already in the database.

According to the release, the seeds of the program were planted by Linda Lee, who developed the concept in response to her son’s autism, when she addressed Sagadahoc County staff at a recent conference.

“Anyone in the emergency communications field will tell you — the more specific you can be with details, the more likely a response will be successful,” said Hinckley. “As soon as I heard from Linda about her idea for the Wandering Person Program, I knew that it was something that we needed to implement in Sagadahoc County. I urge all families with loved ones who might benefit from this tool to contact us and sign up.”

Hinckley said the county is also looking into multiple tracking system options, which includes GPS and radio frequency technology and there remain logistical, maintenance and cost issues to consider.

For more information on the Wandering Person Program or to sign up, visit www.sagcommunications.com. There is an online intake form to fill out which will trigger a call from dispatchers to gather more information to put directly into their secure database. The information will be updated annually along with the photo. Those who can’t access or don’t wish to use the online form can call the Sagadahoc County Communications Center at (207) 443- 9711.

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